Puigdemont Stares Down Catalan Far Left, Calls for Referendum

The Catalan leader puts down a rebellion inside his coalition and presses ahead with plans to secede from Spain.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont makes a speech in the regional legislature in Barcelona, September 29
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont makes a speech in the regional legislature in Barcelona, September 29 (Generalitat de Catalunya)

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, survived a confidence vote on Thursday he had called in July, when a small far-left party in his coalition rejected his budget proposal for 2017.

Puigdemont came to power in January under a deal with the anticapitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).

Puigdemont’s own party, Junts pel Sí (“Together for Yes”), has 62 out of 135 seats in the regional legislature against 63 for the parties that oppose independence. With ten seats, the CUP holds the balance of power.

Although Puigdemont and the CUP agree on breaking away from Spain, they have little else in common, as I wrote here this summer. The CUP would pull an independent Catalonia out of the European Union and NATO, for example, whereas Junts pel Sí wants membership of both. The CUP’s economic program is basically Marxist whereas Puigdemont’s is middle-of-the-road.

Secession underway

Thursday’s confidence vote doesn’t help bridge this divide. CUP leaders insisted they were not giving Puigdemont “carte blanche“.

But the outcome does allow the regional president to press ahead with plans to declare independence from Spain — unilaterally, if need be.

His coalition is currently erecting state institutions, such as an independent tax agency and social security services. A referendum on independence is planned for September of next year.

Catalans divided

Polls suggest Catalans are evenly split on the issue. An official survey last year showed a plurality in favor of Catalonia becoming an even more autonomous entity or a federal state of Spain.

The central government in Madrid has ruled out such options and repeatedly blocked a formal independence referendum in what is Spain’s wealthiest region.


  1. The problem is more complicated than this summary. The Catalan economy has a dependency with Spain of 60% (GDP) and enterprises with foreign capital in the country account for more than 80% of companies in a totally country. If independence is produced, a process of companies offshoring can be of incalculable proportions, similar to the effect produced in Quebec will be made.

  2. Thanks for your comment, M.A.

    I didn’t go deeper into the economics of Catalan independence here, because the focus is the political story, but you may be interested in some of our older articles on this: Banks Caution Catalonia Against Independence and Independent Catalonia Would Get Higher Credit Rating.

    I also recommend Is Spain About to Break Up? Geopolitics of the New Europe, which — as the title suggests — looks at this issue from a geopolitical perspective.

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